The blog.


Africa Utopia returns to Southbank Centre

Southbank Centre’s annual Africa Utopia festival returns for its fifth year on Saturday 15 & Sunday 16 July 2017, with an exciting line up of leading musicians, artists, performers and thinkers from across Africa and its diaspora.

The festival celebrates the arts and culture of one of the world’s most dynamic and fast-changing continents and will encompass a vibrant mix of talks, workshops and performances for all ages, both free and paid-for. Confirmed so far for 2017’s Africa Utopia festival are the award-winning Afrobeat superstar, Fuse ODG  and the Chineke! Orchestra both performing in the Royal Festival Hall.

Born in London and raised in Ghana, Fuse ODG is the founder of TINA – This is New Africa – a movement whose mission is ‘re-programming the world’s mental image of Africa, its people and its diaspora’ (15 July) and Chineke! Orchestra is Europe’s first all-Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) orchestra, performing classical repertoire to mark their third performance at the festival (16 July).

The weekend will also include an Africa Utopia Marketplace, with stalls and pop-up boutiques offering the latest in African and African-inspired fashion, accessories, books, art, homeware and workshops, as well as a bustling pop-up street food market, with over 13 stalls of authentic African cuisine from across the continent.

Previous performers, artists and speakers who have taken part in Africa Utopia include award-winning Senegalese musician and human rights activist Baaba Maal; Grammy Award winner Angelique Kidjo; former First Lady of Somaliland and founder of the Edna Adan Hospital, Edna Adan; Kenyan creative collective The Nest; South African performer Spoek Mathambo; ‘godfather of Ethiopian jazz’ Mulatu Astatke; the Kinshasa Symphony orchestra;  and many more from across the African continent and the diaspora.

The full programme and list of performers will be released early May, 2017.

Seth Dei, the Ghanaian investor behind fruit exporter Blue Skies

The businessman and art collector on helping create an economic success story and why Ghana has failed to fulfil its potential
Hidden behind high walls and the dusty, traffic-laden chaos of modern-day Accra, Seth Dei sits in pensive calm in his office. A cup of late afternoon coffee and three mini chocolate-chip cookies lie untouched in front of him as he studies his next move in a protracted chess endgame with his computer. “I’m winning, but I’m not sure how to finish,” he sighs.

Dei’s home in Accra © Jordi Perdigó

On the walls are a few pieces from the extensive Ghanaian art collection he has built up over more than three decades. Outside, a neatly trimmed garden with a verdant lawn and brightly coloured tropical plants offset the white walls and clean lines of his modernist house.

The building in which he is sitting was built in 1957 for an English businessman. Dei found it too big when he bought it, and turned it into the now mothballed and sparsely furnished Dei Centre for the Study of Contemporary African Art, complete with a small library, and corridors and staircases lined with some of the 500 paintings he has acquired.

He hauls himself to his feet, and gestures to a picture opposite his desk of a market scene by Adiama that is part-painting, part-fabric collage. “He was part of the old school of artists in Ghana, who were timid about selling their works and not business-like,” he says. “They didn’t put much value on art.”

Dei, 72, is a posterboy for business in Ghana. He helped create Blue Skies, a fresh fruit-packaging

Sitting room of Dei’s home in Accra, Ghana © Jordi Perdigó

factory, which has become a frequent attraction on tours by dignitaries seeking symbols of the country’s economic success. He is now scaling back his involvement in a business with £90m in annual sales, supplying supermarkets in a dozen countries (including Waitrose in the UK) from its original factory in Accra, as well as others opened since in South Africa, Egypt, Senegal and Brazil.

His latter-day activities belie much of his working career and longstanding passion for supporting local artists. That is evident in the residential quarters next door, where he lives with his second wife. “Everything is made locally,” he says.

Born to cocoa-farming parents in the then Gold Coast and witness to independence from Britain during his schooldays in 1957, his focus was long on the US. He won a scholarship to Buxton, a boarding prep school in New England, and moved there aged 16.

He recalls his thrill at seeing the red autumn colours in his first September. In winter, “everything was white with snow, which I had never seen”.

With Ghanaian government funding, Dei studied at Columbia and Cornell in New York, before working in the life insurance sector. “I dealt with CEOs and CFOs. I observed the habits of American chief executives: they knew their businesses, kept fit, worked hard, had admirable self-confidence. You learnt from them,” he says.

Garden room © Jordi Perdigó

He married an American and spent much of his career in the US, but never forgot his roots. “I had always intended to come back to Ghana, or at least to Africa,” he says. “I realised it was difficult to be poor here: there are so many opportunities. You only have to drop a seed and in two weeks you have a plant. Depending on your ambition you can become a millionaire.”

When he returned at the start of the 1990s, his first ventures drew on his US financial expertise. “There was a gold boom and a lot of mining companies, and I figured they needed equipment and leasing services. But that required central bank supervision, and the rules were terrible. I could see it would not grow, so I sold the business.”

Then in 1997, he was introduced to Anthony Pile, a Briton who wanted to open a fresh fruit-packaging plant. “He was keen to find a local partner. Somebody told him to talk to me. We started chatting and he had convinced me within three minutes. It’s been a very good investment,” Dei says.

Asked to list the difficulties of operating, he quotes transport — perishable fruit must be shipped

Jazz Play’ (1997) by Glen Turner © Jordi Perdigó

by plane — as well as the erratic local electricity supply, something which, in the humid dusk, also presents a challenge for the preservation of his artworks.

And corruption? “We have not come up against it, and we would not participate,” he says. “We are doing a lot for the economy.” Blue Skies employs 4,000 local staff, pays substantially above the minimum wage, offers free cooked meals, medical help, maternity and paternity leave, and social responsibility programmes in local communities.

With Ghana just celebrating 60 years of independence, he reflects: “I feel we should have done better. We had many more assets than Malaysia or South Korea, with a lot more natural resources. But I see a slow realisation from the president down that we should have done better. Coups d’état were getting us nowhere. Democratic practice has introduced competition to government.”

He says he never had any interest in politics. “I cannot say something is blue when it is in fact red.” Instead, during his spare time, he threw himself into art collecting. He befriended many of the country’s artists, buying their work and sometimes being offered it. He points to a long canvas by Larry Otoo of a brass band in a remote village. “He came to me and asked if I wanted him to paint me something. This is it.”

Paintings by E Owusu Dartey and Adoley Nmai among others © Jordi Perdigó

Settling into an armchair in the entrance hall, Dei pauses before answering the question of why he loves art. “First and foremost, I look on it as history: what’s happened, what’s happening,” he says. “The artist is able to freeze-frame and look carefully at things you don’t normally pay attention to when you are walking around. You never noticed something, and, seeing the picture, you realise it’s beautiful. It makes you pay more attention.”

He gets to his feet, and walks across a courtyard, into the street and next door, where at the end of a small garden decorated by large stone sculptures, he had an Italian architect friend modify the former maid’s quarters into his living accommodation. Settling down in the study, among piles of CDs and videos, Dei says he still receives weekly management reports from Blue Skies, and is excited about new projects including a planned range of dairy-free ice creams in chocolate, mango, coconut and lime.

On the lounge table, flanked by sofas, are a series of antique wooden-carved slingshots from

Baule sculpture from the Ivory Coast © Jordi Perdigó

Ghana, Ivory Coast and Cameroon, which have been converted into ornaments. A full-length window opens on to a tiny, tranquil courtyard. Yet Dei craves still more space and light, and is completing work on a new home in the hills with a view over Accra. “I want more calm, where the air is cool.”

He is also winding down his art collection, expressing frustration that American academic partners did not provide any funding. He closed the centre to the public three years ago. “I got tired and I’m taking a pause,” he says. “If I kept doing this, I’d be broke.”

He says all options remain open, and recently discussed the sale of works in a meeting with Sotheby’s. His dream is to donate his collection to a new state museum of modern art, but for now, he questions the competence of government officials to take charge.

“We need a new museum of modern art. I think we can use the diaspora to build a nice little museum,” he says. He would like someone to approach the architect David Adjaye to prepare a preparatory sketch for a new venue, “to embarrass big institutions into contributing and building it”.

Even if he is frustrated with the slow progress, Dei has not lost his enthusiasm for art. He has just bought two pictures in a new high-end gallery nearby, itself a sign of changing attitudes. “It has opened the eyes of Ghanaians and encouraged younger artists to up their game. There is a buzz about art in Ghana now. I’m very happy.”

Favourite thing

© Jordi Perdigó

Dei picks out a 2006 painting of a saxophonist by Ghanaian artist Hacajaka. “When I look at this picture, it brings back lots of memories,” he says. “I listen a lot to jazz. It reminds me of when I graduated from college. When I was studying in the US, I heard some of the best jazz musicians: John Coltrane, Miles Davis.

“Miles Davis is my favourite. I heard him in Boston once and asked for his autograph, though he pretty much told me to get lost. There was a lot of experimentation with music . . . It puts me in a good mood. I’ll put this in my office in my new house.”

Articke via FT

Ghana Government seeks new dawn for struggling power sector

Ghana’s new government is looking to fix a crippling power crisis with a complete overhaul of its deficit-ridden energy sector including a boost for solar energy.

Intermittent power supply issues have dogged the west African nation since the 1980s and became particularly acute in the last five years — although there has been some improvement recently.

President Nana Akufo-Addo blames his predecessor John Dramani Mahama whose energy policies, he said last month, had led to “gargantuan debt”.

Ghana’s energy sector was crushed by an accumulated debt of $2.4 billion, he said, as the cost of buying in fuel, paying energy suppliers and running inefficient state companies spiralled out of control.

Its bad financial situation “constitutes the single major hurdle to Ghanaians enjoying reliable and affordable electricity supply”, he said last month in his first State of the Nation address.

Improvements in the provision of power were seen in the run-up to December’s election but Akufo-Addo said the challenges within the sector were far from over and high costs were a major stumbling block.

Akufo-Addo’s New Patriotic Party (NPP) has now begun to develop a new electricity masterplan, which also includes possibly listing state-owned power generation and supply companies on the stock exchange.

Such asset sales would not only move the underperforming utilities off the government’s books, but private ownership may well make them more efficient, experts say.

This year’s budget also included ambitious plans for renewable energy to provide two to three percent of supply to the national grid and, in addition, develop 38,000 solar-powered homes in “off-grid” communities.

– Here comes the sun –

Harnessing the power of Africa’s most abundant free resource — the sun — to provide electricity has long been a challenge for governments across the continent.

In Ghana there are hopes that more people will sign up to a 500-watt solar panel scheme started under Mahama for homes and businesses. The panels come free, but takers must still foot start-up costs of around $1,500.

The Energy Commission wants to see 200,000 such systems installed, but the scheme’s coordinator, Kenneth Appiah, says since it was launched in February last year only 409 units have been installed.

Among those who have received the panels — each installation is worth about $450 — is accountancy lecturer Daniel Nkrumah-Afyeefi.

He said the programme was a good starting point to get his home off the grid and he planned to add more panels to lower food refrigeration costs and avoid hot, sleepless nights.

“When you live in a place like Accra and you need to store food items, when power runs off and on like that some of the things get spoiled,” he told AFP.

“You tend to be buying as and when you eat, and that ends up increasing your cost of purchasing food items.”

– Business suffers –

Ghana has seen four different power crises since 1982 due to low water levels in the country’s dams, said Ishmael Ackah, head of policy at the Africa Centre for Energy Policy.

In 1997, the country began using thermal energy to complement hydro-electric power but struggles to keep its power stations going at full capacity, as the economy grows and demand increases.

Nigeria has been a major supplier of gas and oil but that has been erratic, as Ghana has struggled to pay its bills.

Scheduled rolling electricity blackouts to ration power — known locally as “dumsor” — have in recent years had a knock-on effect on businesses and productivity, and led to street demonstrations.

A 2015 report by Ghana’s Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research indicated the country was losing some $2.2 million a day because of the energy shortfall.

The government is hoping domestic oil and gas supply from offshore fields will help cut the energy deficit, alongside solar, for the country’s 27 million people.

Energy minister Boakye Agyarko has said he wants all government departments to be solar powered and vowed to “step on the accelerator and make sure we do even more than we are doing now”.

A British-based firm, Blue Energy, is hoping to build a huge solar farm in western Ghana by December this year, with a capacity of up to 155 megawatts.

Ackah said there is hope that solar power’s share in the overall energy mix will soar by the end of the decade.

“It is 0.5 percent in 2017. We are supposed to get 10 percent in the next three years,” he said.

Source: https://www.independent.co.ug/ghana-seeks-new-dawn-struggling-power-sector/

Me Firi Ghana (@Me_FiRi_GHANA)

SpeedUPAfrica 2017 is Official

Africa’s Most Epic Founder Bootcamp is set for 2017.
100 Founders + 20 Countries + Workshops + OfficeHours + InvestorMeetings + TurningUP 💃🏽🕺🏽

Brief:
Building on the epic success of SpeedUPAfrica 2016 (see data, pics & videos), We’re excited to announce that all is set for SpeedUPAfrica 2017. No Panels, No Speeches, No Demo Day. Instead – Founder led Peer-to-Peer sessions, Intense Silicon Valley Expert led Workshops, 1:1 Investor Meetings, and Turning Up of Epic Proportions. SpeedUPAfrica 2017 will be #LIT!

Dates: July 5th – 9th, 2017
Location: Lagos Oriental Hotel, Lagos, Nigeria
Startups: Apply Now!!! (Deadline: May 1st)
Investors: Click Here to Participate

See ~ SpeedUPAfrica.com ~ for more

Erykah Badu: Voice readers get first dibs on tickets from 9am today

Erykah Badu will perform at London’s Eventim Apollo Hammersmith for one night only on 6 July 2017

The Voice and Neo Luv are giving readers an exclusive chance to grab tickets from 9am today, before they go on sale to the general public this Friday!

Choose from seated or standing tickets and prepare to celebrate with Erykah Badu as she marks the 20th anniversary of her two-time Grammy-winning debut album, Baduizm.

Buy your advanced SEATED tickets here
Buy your advanced STANDING tickets here

Black Queen by Adwoa Asiedu

Poet Adwoa Asiedu’s ‘Black Queen’ has been featured in Ten2teens Magazine-Inspiring to change perceptions. Read the full version below. The poem can also be found in From Within Volume 1 available on Amazon

Black Queen Copyright© 2013 Adwoa Asiedu All Rights Reserved

Say Hello to a black Queen who is proud to be who she is.

I’ll tell you why I love being a black woman:

A black woman is full of beauty

A black woman is full of fire

A black woman exudes boldness

A black woman has inner strength.

She isn’t afraid to speak her mind

But she is wiser than what your eyes see

A black woman is a fighter

A black woman is a warrior

A black woman is powerful

A black woman is complete

Yes it is who we are.

We are all that.

Embrace being a black woman.

You were made to be great,

You were destined to be influential,

Destiny calls;

Now is the time to manifest our presence

Raise your hands up in the sky

And declare:

Now is my time. Now Go.

 

Science-Loving Teens From Ghana And D.C. Geek Out Together In World Smarts STEM Challenge

It was a meeting of nerds and sharks.

The self-described “biotech nerds” and “robotic nerds” were seven high school students from Washington, D.C. The eight teens who call themselves “sharks” and flew in from Ghana. “The shark is a big fish so it means you’re big. Knowledgeable,” explains Stephanie Obbo of Ghana, an aspiring medical doctor.

Together, the 15 high schoolers formed a team for the first World Smarts STEM Challenge. That’s a science competition run by IREX, a global development nonprofit that strives to promote student enthusiasm for science, tech, engineering and math (aka STEM). Each of the 17 teams had teenagers in the D.C. area partnering with Ghanaians to identify and solve a real-world problem. NPR’s Goats and Soda followed “Team McKwiny” — a name that blends D.C.’s McKinley Technology High School and Winneba Senior High School in Ghana.

They had collaborated since September over the internet. The Americans kicked around the idea of minimizing carbon emissions. The Ghanaians wanted to tackle water pollution. They finally agreed to design and build a water purifier.

Both contingents had a personal stake in the project. The McKinley students found high levels of lead in the Anacostia River that flows through Washington, D.C. And the Winneba students in southern Ghana found pesticides, hospital waste, sewage and other pollutants in a nearby lagoon used for fishing and irrigation. And because water shortages cause locals to rely on streams and ponds for clean drinking water, more than 100 cases of cholera swept through a neighboring district just in October 2016.

The Ghanaian teenagers proposed using local materials, like leaves from neem trees, to help filter the water. (The medicinal and antibacterial properties of neem leaves and oil have been studied.) The Americans, with no access to neem leaves, suggested substituting cilantro after learning that it removes lead from water — a property discovered by undergraduate researchers in 2013.

Meeting in person for the first time was a little awkward, since being social mattered at least as much as being scientific. American Miara Bonner, wearing a lab coat and hoop earrings, suggested an icebreaker. “What’s that?” asked the Ghanaians in unison.

A question-and-answer game revealed similarities and differences. “I also don’t like the food at my school,” said Cassell Robinson of McKinley. “We have many tribes and festivals to remember the past and sacrifice animals,” said Winneba junior Stephanie Obbo. Bonner’s jaw dropped. “I did not know any of that.” She remembers thinking, “They hunt. They sacrifice. They don’t teach you that in history!”

Their purification device consisted of four interconnected plastic buckets. In the first chamber, the water is filtered through gravel and sand. Then moringa seeds and neem leaves (or cilantro) in the sedimentation chamber extract particles before the water is boiled in a different chamber and then stored. Team McKwiny tested their treated water samples and said they were able to remove contaminants from both fresh and salt water, meeting World Health Organization standards for safety.

“It opens up my eyes that there are a lot of things that are useful out in the world that I just haven’t found yet,” said McKinley’s Megan Richardson.

The goal of the competition is to encourage that kind of curiosity. Especially because few American students are embracing STEM. “Only about 16 percent of American high school seniors are proficient in math and interested in a STEM career,” said Rebecca Bell Meszaros, associate vice president for education with IREX. “This program is combining STEM and 21st century skills like problem solving, innovation and cross-cultural communication.” She adds that IREX chose to focus the program, made possible by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, in Ghana because the nonprofit has good access to schools with reliable internet.

By Saturday’s final event, American and Ghanaian members of Team McKwiny were whispering into each other’s ears and holding hands. But they didn’t get the grand prize. That went to Team “Big Bang … Brains of the World!” The students had filled ice trays with soil, added copper wire that was coiled around zinc-plated nails and then poured lemon juice on top. Their battery produced enough voltage to light an LED. The team now has a chance to pitch their battery to investors; IREX will match up to $10,000 raised.

“The winning soil battery demystifies energy production and storage at a time when battery storage is evolving faster than ever,” said judge Jim Egenrieder, director of Virginia Tech’s National Capital Region Thinkabit Labs. “And the water filtration system prototype represents what may become part of every household in the future, as we learn to use and reuse precious water resources.”

Team McKwiny came in second and plans to keep going. The Ghanaian students hope to apply for funding from nongovernmental organizations to construct their filter on the outskirts of the Winneba Township. They want to put the first filter near a school where students lack access to clean water and sometimes have no option but to use water shared by livestock.

In the end, the students didn’t just learn about science. The Americans got new insights into life in the developing world. “I didn’t know that there are lagoons that people get their drinking water from — the water that they bathe in and wash their clothes in,” said Miara Bonner, who hopes to one day become an endodontic surgeon. “I don’t like the idea of that. When I heard that, I thought this is the problem we need to focus on.”

And the Ghanaians tossed out their stereotypes of Americans. Belinda Dogbe had the preconception that Americans would be “snobbish, always wanting to be alone, not friendly” — a stereotype that came from Hollywood movies. “I realized we are wrong,” she said. “They are very friendly, they are open. They love to ask questions.”

Sasha Ingber is a multimedia journalist who covers science, culture and foreign affairs for such publications as National Geographic and Smithsonian. She can be reached @SashaIngber

Source: http://www.npr.org/

Me Firi GHANA (@Me_FiRi_GHANA)

Leeds Beckett graduate launches new project to support young entrepreneurs

A new service to help young entrepreneurs get their business ideas up and running has been launched by a Leeds Beckett University graduate.

Obed Yeboah’s new project, ObedsHUB, has been set up to offer practical business support to entrepreneurs aged between 16 and 30. From affordable web development to social media courses and one-to-one business support, ObedsHUB aims to help young people who do not have a big budget to invest in their business ideas to get started on the road to success.

Obed graduated from Leeds Beckett in 2015 with a BSc (Hons) degree in Business Information Technology. During the second year of his degree, Obed began creating an app, CVsnip, with his partner and adviser, Navin Arora. CVsnip aimed to help art and design students and graduates to find employment by showcasing their work within their online job application. Obed has now sold his app to a university which has turned CVsnip into a web application for its creative students to secure jobs.

Obed explained: “I understand that the average start-up fund for young people is between £600 – £1,000. I know this because that is what I had to do to get going with CVsnip. With that budget many young entrepreneurs will not get a well-developed scalable website from developers so I decided to partner with development companies I worked with on CVsnip who are most focused on helping people to do more with less.”

Alongside the practical support offered by ObedsHUB, Obed has established a podcast show, dealing with topics ranging from refining your business idea to creating relationships with people in industry. Young people are also invited to speak on the show about their experiences.

Obed said: “The entire reason why I started ObedsHUB is to address the lack of practical support available to young entrepreneurs. A lot of people have amazing ideas but don’t have the funds so they tend to wait for the perfect moment to start. I challenge this because there will never be a perfect start. All you need to do is to speak to the right people and they will give you the opportunity you need to achieve your goals.”

ObedsHUB has already received an award nomination for commitment to the community, in the Business Launchpad Awards 2017. You can vote for ObedsHUB here and the winners of the awards will be announced on 27 April 2017.

Obed received help from the Enterprise and Innovation Academy for Students at Leeds Beckett when setting up CVsnip. The Academy provided a business adviser through its Placement Year Entrepreneurship Scheme and a Proof of Concept grant of £500 to help with promotion. Stephen Griffiths, Enterprise Development Officer, said: “I remember Obed’s persistence and utmost belief in his product as being the traits that saw him overcome the difficulties he faced in getting the App developed and launched.”

Speaking about the support he received while studying at Leeds Beckett, Obed added: “I received a great deal of support when starting CVsnip. I had help from my Human-Computer Interaction lecturer, my business advisor at the Enterprise and Innovation Academy helped me refine my idea. I also had help from a business support company in London, called Business Launchpad. They taught me how to market on social media and how to deal with developers to ensure I wasn’t taken advantage of because I was young and a rookie.”

Article taken from here

World’s most marginalized still left behind by global development priorities: UNDP report

Millions of people are not benefiting from progress, with the gap set to widen unless deep-rooted development barriers, including discrimination and unequal political participation, are tackled.

A quarter-century of impressive human development progress continues to leave many people behind, with systemic, often unmeasured, barriers to catching up. A stronger focus on those excluded and on actions to dismantle these barriers is urgently needed to ensure sustainable human development for all.

These are the findings of the Human Development Report 2016, entitled ‘Human Development for Everyone’, released today by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The report finds that although average human development improved significantly across all regions from 1990 to 2015, one in three people worldwide continue to live in low levels of human development, as measured by the Human Development Index.

“Leaving no one behind needs to become the way we operate as a global community. In order to overcome the barriers that hamper both human development and progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, inclusiveness must guide policy choices,” said Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, speaking at the launch of the report in Stockholm today, alongside UNDP Administrator Helen Clark and the report’s lead author and Director of the Human Development Report Office, Selim Jahan.

“The world has come a long way in rolling back extreme poverty, in improving access to education, health and sanitation, and in expanding possibilities for women and girls,” said Helen Clark. “But those gains are a prelude to the next, possibly tougher challenge, to ensure the benefits of global progress reach everyone.”

This is a concern in developed countries too, where poverty and exclusion are also a challenge, with over 300 million people – including more than one-third of all children – living in relative poverty.

Left behind and unable to catch up: systemic discrimination against women, indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities, among others

The report notes that not only are deprivations high, but disadvantages disproportionately affect some groups.

“We place too much attention on national averages, which often mask enormous variations in people’s lives,” stated Selim Jahan. “In order to advance, we need to examine more closely not just what has been achieved, but also who has been excluded and why.”

The report shows that in almost every country, several groups face disadvantages that often overlap and reinforce each other, increasing vulnerability, widening the progress gap across generations, and making it harder to catch up as the world moves on.

Women and girls, rural dwellers, indigenous peoples, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants and refugees, and the LGBTI community are among those systematically excluded by barriers that are not purely economic, but political, social and cultural as well.

In the case of women, the largest of these groups, the report notes that while global gender disparities are narrowing slowly, longstanding patters of exclusion and lack of empowerment for women and girls remain pressing challenges.

Women tend to be poorer, earn less, and have fewer opportunities in most aspects of life than men. In 100 countries, women are legally excluded from some jobs because of their gender, and in 18 countries, women need their husband’s approval to work. Dangerous practices like female genital mutilation and forced marriage continue.

Populations living in rural areas also face multiple barriers. For instance, children from poor rural households attending school are less likely to be learning reading, writing and mathematics.

Moreover, migrants and refugees often face barriers to work, education and political participation and more than 250 million people in the world face discrimination on the basis of their ethnicity, the report notes among other examples.

It is time to face up to deep-rooted barriers to development

“By eliminating deep, persistent, discriminatory social norms and laws, and addressing the unequal access to political participation, which have hindered progress for so many, poverty can be eradicated and a peaceful, just, and sustainable development can be achieved for all,” Helen Clark said.

Marginalized groups often have limited opportunities to influence the institutions and policies that determine their lives. Changing this is central to breaking the vicious circle of exclusion and deprivation.

For example, indigenous peoples account for five percent of the world’s population, but 15 percent of people living in poverty. And members of the LGBTI community cannot actively advocate for their rights when same-sex acts between men are illegal in more than 70 countries.

The report calls for far greater attention to empowering the most marginalized in society, and recognizes the importance of giving them greater voice in decision-making processes.

The report also calls for a more refined analysis to inform actions, including making a shift toward assessing progress in such areas as participation and autonomy. Key data, disaggregated for characteristics such as place, gender, socioeconomic status and ethnicity, is vital to know who is being left behind.

Moreover, the report warns, key development metrics can overstate progress when they focus on the quantity, rather than the quality, of development. For instance, girls’ enrolment in primary education has increased, but in half of 53 developing countries with data, the majority of adult women who completed four to six years of primary school are illiterate.

Human development for everyone is attainable

“Despite progress gaps, universal human development is attainable,” said Selim Jahan. “Over the last decades, we have witnessed achievements in human development that were once thought impossible.”

Since 1990, one billion people have escaped extreme poverty, and women’s empowerment has become a mainstream issue: while as recently as the 1990s, very few countries legally protected women from domestic violence, today, 127 countries do.

The report stresses the importance of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to build on these gains, noting that the agenda and human development approach are mutually reinforcing.

The report includes recommendations to reorient policies to ensure progress reaches those furthest behind, and urges reforms of global markets and global institutions to make them more equitable and representative.

Germany supports e-waste disposal in Ghana

The German government has unveiled a plan to help Ghana deal with electronic waste at Agbogbloshie, a major dumping site outside of the capital, Accra. The project aims to protect both workers and the environment.

Young men busy themselves extracting copper from the dumped electronics and other scrap materials so they can resell what the collect. With bare hands, they burn the electronics, which causes a thick black smoke. Though this is a necessity for their business, the smoke makes it difficult for people nearby to breathe.

Agbogbloshie is the hub of electronic waste (e-waste) in West Africa and most of the electronics dumped

The processing of e-waste pollutes the environment and poisons workers

at the site are hazardous. The site is notorious for the dangerous manner in which electronic waste is collected and burned. The practice pollutes not only the atmosphere but also nearby bodies of water and is dangerous for the workers.

The German government announced a 20 million euro ($21.5 million) project it says will transform the electronic waste processing system in Accra. It calls for the building of an e-waste recycling facility where materials can be brought and sold and processed safely to the benefit of the local community. The plan was presented at a public event by the German Ambassador to Ghana, Christoph Retzlaff.

“The second component of the plan is a health station in Agbogbloshie to support people living there,” he added.

Global and local problem

The UN Environment Program (UNEP) reported in 2015 that 60 to 90 percent of the world’s electronic waste is illegally dumped. In 2014, an estimated 42 million tons of e-waste were generated. But according to UNEP, 85 percent of the e-waste dumped in Ghana and other parts of West Africa is produced in Ghana and West Africa.

The local group City Waste Management is already excited about the initiative and is positioning itself to make the best out of the project.

“We are grateful that the German embassy here in Ghana has come on board to do this with the Ghanaian private sector. We are looking forward to working with them,” said Wendy Ahiayibor, a representative of the company.